10:50 - 12:30
Session: S05
[Emotional Capacities] + Design
When is a potato too ugly?: Understanding the complexity of aesthetics in produce towards the reduction of food waste
Aesthetics Of Produce; Consumer Behaviour; Ugly Produce; Aesthetic Function; Food Waste

Prior studies have found that acceptance of cosmetically imperfect produce can largely vary based on specific consumers’ internal values such as educational level and environmental awareness. On the other hand, studies have shown that changing external factors of foods such as colour and presentation of food can alter consumers’ preferences to a great extent. While these studies demonstrate the degree to which consumers are affected by visual stimuli in food, there is a disconnect between these two bodies of literature as one argues that there is a common aesthetic standard that we all are influenced by, whereas the other asserts that the standard varies significantly among people. The lack of understanding on what specific visual attributes influence consumer preference for fresh produce has made it difficult to fully utilize design thinking as a tool to reduce food waste due to aesthetic reasons. Findings of this research indicate that surface quality tends to be the most important criteria for determining aesthetic preference for potatoes-one of multiple produce items studied - as based on consumer and experts’ ratings. Consumers’ stated willingness-to-pay values were also exponentially proportionate to surface qualities. However, the window of tolerance can be expanded when different preparations are considered. This research helps bridge the precarious gap between consumers’ actual preferences and farmer/marketers’ knowledge about what is acceptable to consumers. It also has an important implication for designers and marketers in the food industry in that tolerance for a wider range of aesthetic diversity should be strongly advocated.